With starter Dejan Jakovic away on Gold Cup duty, D.C. United coach Ben Olsen turned to three rookie defenders to hold the LA Galaxy attack at bay on Friday night. The move paid off.
Rookies Chris Korb, Ethan White and Perry Kitchen combined to shut down LA’s offense and help DC come away with a 0-0 draw from The Home Depot Center.
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“It was a pretty impressive performance from those three young guys,” Olsen told reporters after the game. “They continue to play beyond their rookie status week in, week out. It’d be hard to take those three out of the lineup.”
While White and Kitchen have been mainstays for most of the season in DC’s defense, Korb returned to the starting XI for the first time since April 21. The three hadn’t played together in league action for United and it was also the first time Kitchen and White paired up in central defense.
Regardless of that unfamiliarity, the trio teamed up with veteran left back Daniel Woolard to ward off the Galaxy offense, securing a valuable point for a young team.
“We got the shutout. It wasn't the prettiest at times, but we had the right mentality and got the result that we needed,” Kitchen said after the match.
But the youth theme wasn’t only reserved for defense. Forward Blake Brettschneider also got the nod, making it four rookies who got the call. Against LA, United’s starting lineup had an average age of just over 24 years old.
Despite the inexperience, DC looked the better side, and the strong defensive performance laid the foundation for what could have been three points on the road if not for a couple of missed opportunities.
Charlie Davies, returning to action for the first time since May 7, had the best chance of the game in the 81st minute.
The DC defense cleared an LA attack, leaving Davies and forward Josh Wolff in a two-on-two situation. Wolff collected the ball near the center circle and hit a through ball towards Davies and behind the Galaxy back line. Davies outran LA defender Omar Gonzalez and rounded goalie Josh Saunders, but took his shot off balance and couldn’t convert into an empty net.
Despite not finishing that chance – Wolff was also unable to convert on a couple of opportunities earlier in the game – DC were content with the draw and performance, but lamented not getting the win.
“I’m happy with the way team played,” midfielder Clyde Simms told MLSsoccer.com. “I think the guys are ultimately happy but are still a little disappointed we didn’t come up with three [points].”
In all, a point means DC head back to the nation’s capital with four points in two games from their West Coast road trip – the total Olsen targeted before it started – and is another step in the right direction for the young squad.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark